Stressed Out: The Busyness Phenomenon

woman looking busy on her phone

Larry Dossey, a physician coined the term “time sickness” in 1982 to describe the belief that time is getting away, we don’t have enough of it, and that we must push harder and harder to keep up. By this definition, most of us are “sick” all the time. But this isn’t new to you, by now, I’m sure most people have heard the damage long-term stress and exhaustion inflicts on our bodies. Some symptoms include: pain, heart disease, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, depression, obesity, autoimmune diseases, and skin conditions such as eczema to name a few.

Not only does stress negatively affect our bodies, but it also affects our relationships. Dr. James Dobson said, “Overcommitment and exhaustion are the most insidious and pervasive marriage killers you will ever encounter as a couple.” Usually we are too tired or too preoccupied that we cannot fully engage with the people we love most. They get what’s leftover after we’ve given others our full energy.

Have you ever met anyone that wore his or her busyness as a badge of honor? The folks who don’t have time to answer the phone, and if they do, give you a list of all they have to do? Perhaps the person is you. The primary gain of being busy seems to be productivity (which aids a person’s feeling of worth). But just under the surface, the secondary gain of busyness also may keep us from reflecting on the deeper issues of our lives: the conversations we need to have, the thoughts, feelings, and even people we dread, or even addictions (food, pornography, gambling, shopping, etc) that we need to address.

If this sounds like you, and you are ready to take steps to take back your time, here are a few ideas:

  1. Quit serving leftovers. It’s always sad when we realize that we’re giving the people we love most our leftover energy, attention, and time. Consider setting aside specific time for your spouse, kids, and friends and leaving your blackberry or computer off or somewhere else.
  2. Examine your secondary gains. Do you feel like you’re only as good as your “productivity?” When you examine yourself more closely, are there unresolved issues, conversations, people, and/or addictions you are avoiding? Consider counseling as an option for exploring and healing.
  3. Learn to say no gracefully. Surgeon Berne Siegel said, “People who neglect their own needs are the ones who are most likely to become ill. For them, the main problem is learning to say “no” without feeling guilty.” Make a list of your commitments and examine them carefully. Is there anything you can let go of or you’d like to say “no” to? Discuss the list with a trusted friend or family member. Perhaps he or she can help provide a different perspective and help you prioritize the parts of your life you are not willing to compromise- your family and health.

Article modified and abridged from “Busyness: The Archenemy of Every Life” by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott